Mondegreen: misheard song lyrics

Mondegreen is a new entry in Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary.   Below is a description of mondegreen from an AP article.  You can read the whole thing here (the article describes a number of the 100 or so new words from our American lexicon that have been added to the dictionary).

And then there’s “mondegreen.” In a category of its own, it describes words mistaken for other words. A mondegreen most often comes from misunderstood phrases or lyrics.

It comes from an old Scottish ballad in which the lyric “laid him on the green” has been confused over time with “Lady Mondegreen.”

Among the best-known modern examples: “There’s a bathroom on the right” in place of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “There’s a bad moon on the rise” and “‘Scuse me, while I kiss this guy” in place of “kiss the sky” in the 1967 Jimi Hendrix classic “Purple Haze.”

Even Sokolowski, a word expert by trade, has a favorite mondegreen: “Lucy in the sky with diamonds,” as sung by the Beatles in 1967, made obvious sense to the preteen Peanuts comic fan as “Lucy in the sky with Linus.”

Merriam-Webster’s editors were so amused by the mondegreen concept that they plan to ask people to submit their favorites on the publishing company’s Web site.”

In honor of this word being officially recognized, I share with you my mondegreens (not quite sure of the plural of mondegreen).

  • From the Flashdance theme song “What a Feeling”:  I heard “take your pants off and make it happen” Actual lyrics:  “take your passion and make it happen”.
  • From Steve Winwood’s song “Higher Love”:  I heard “bake me a pie of love” –  Actual lyrics:  “bring me a higher love.”  Apparently I was completely unaware of the song title or was unmoved by it.

Anybody like to share a mondegreen?


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Laurie Sitterding on July 9, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    I’m stuck at the COR church office printing bulletins, and I just found your blog. I only read the most recent post, but I love it. Our favorite mondegreen (compliments of iivo) was his childhood misunderstanding of Elton John’s “Susie Woman dressed up right.” (Actually, “Susie wore her dresses tight,” don’t cha know?!) 😉 – Laurie


  2. I love this topic. Long ago, I was introduced to a website devoted to this topic — and just the other day was trying to figure out how one would find it…

    I remember is having a protracted battle with a friend who could not accept that the words in Def Leppard’s “Rock of Ages” were “I’m gonna burn this [expletive] place down” — he insisted it was “I’m gonna rock this [expletive] place down.” I still don’t know how you can NOT hear the word “burn” there (not “rock”).

    Another good friend and I spent many hours of our lives listening and re-listening to songs by PIL or REM to figure out the words… REM never makes it easy. Maybe their long term goal was to gain publicity through mondegreen notoriety.


  3. Posted by adamtisdale on July 10, 2008 at 9:28 am

    Laurie – glad to provide a diversion…thanks for finding the blog and for sharing.

    Ken – I’m afraid I might have been with your friend on “Rock of Ages”


  4. That friendship has never been the same.


  5. Adam, Marcie and I were just laughing about Elton John, who has numerous lyrics whose ACTUAL words don’t make a lot of sense (Levon… need I say more?). I was singing along, jokingly mis-stating the lyrics:
    “Hold me closer, Tony Danza…”

    To which Marcie said, “that’s not the real lyric, is it?” (It’s “Hold me closer, tiny dancer”– obviously, and it makes so much more sense!)

    We were also thinking about a Mondegreen that Jack (mis)heard early in life: Marcie was singing him goodnight songs, and he must have been about 2 or so. She usually ended with “The Lord bless you and keep you,” and she did on that night as well. As she finished…. “and give you peace, and give you peace…” then Jack looked up and said, “and corn!”


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